Exploring The Sinking City
The heat and humidity last night was a real test. Judging by the bleary eyes this morning, no one had managed to get much sleep. Caroline had opted to use the ‘grown up’ tent, which meant the boys had their tent to themselves.
Today is our 8th wedding anniversary, so after spending the morning on the beach, the plan for the afternoon and evening was Venice; it just had to be done.
Showered down and after-sun lotion applied, we walked the 1km to Punta Sabbioni to catch the vaporetto (water taxi) into the sinking city. The sun was of course blazing and a throng of jostling tourists had already gathered at the port. The heavy metal doors of the vaporetto were slung back and the stampede to board progressed.
The ride into Venice is always one to remember as salty sea breezes catch the nostrils and the boats bobs happily in the wake of a hundred other water vessels all going about their business. The picture book Venetian silhouette comes into view and the anticipation of walking the maze of ancient streets increases.
Arriving 50 minutes later at the port to Piazza San Marco the stampede to disembark gets under way, funny really; you’d think Venice was going to disappear today? Swept along with the crowd, we headed left off the vaporetto towards Piazza San Marco, stopping briefly to photograph the Bridge of Sighs, The Bridge of Sighs received its name in the 17th century, because the prisoners who passed through it on their way to the prison cells on the other side would most likely see the beautiful sight of the lagoon and the island of S.Giorgio and freedom for the last time.
So many tourists in their desperation to reach the square easily miss this understated and tragic landmark. Passing the numerous market vendors, we strolled past the Palazzo Ducale, the residence of the Doge up to the fall of the Venetian Republic in I797. The Palazzo’s intricate and curvaceous arches providing a welcome rest bite from the heat of the day. Out from the cooling shade and with the Libreria Marciana building on our left we quickly reached the famous Piazza San Marco.
The boys went on ahead whilst Caroline, Lisa and I took a moment to take in the wonderful panorama of history and architecture. The Bell Tower to our left, the ingenious clock tower to our right and just over our shoulder the gold laden Basilica. Timeless structures all built in a city destined one day to disappear forever.
Casually walking around the Piazza, Lisa and Caroline were in their element as shops crammed full of the finest silk scarves, kid-glove shoes and other finery, vied for their attention. Caroline giving in quickly to her first purchase of the day, a beautiful pair of hand made sandals. Out from the air-conditioned shop the heat and humidity hit you like a wall.
“Who’s thirsty”? Caroline asked. We all were; so it wasn’t long before we were seated at one of the immaculately laid tables that edge the Piazza, downing as much of Italy’s finest mineral water as we could. Based on the cost though, we should have been sipping it like fine wine. Refreshed, we headed off to explore the labyrinth of alleyways and streets, which make up this beguiling city. Shops selling everything from the finest handmade luggage to burgers cram into every corner, not an inch of space is wasted. Venice is not for the claustrophobic, as Streets turn into alleyways, alleyways turn into paths and paths surprising, turn into the most magical of piazzas, which make you feel as though you are the first to discover them.
Everywhere you look is an alleyway or a waterway begging to be explored and each one suggesting it leads somewhere special. We quickly lost count of the number of picture postcard bridges we crossed as we made our way through the maze. Finally the streets widened and daylight returned as we found our selves crossing ‘The Grand Canal’, the largest of the waterways to make its way through Venice and once described as “the most beautiful thoroughfare in the world”.
Caroline had a surprise planned as she ‘snuck’ off, quickly getting the attention of one of the awaiting Gondoliers. She returned triumphant and directed us towards the waiting Gondola. “Well is it is your wedding anniversary”, Caroline remarked, off hand, with a glint in her eye the size of Africa. We didn’t ask how much?
The Gondola ride was one to remember and gave us the chance to see Venice, as it should be, from the water. Our Gondolier chatted away happily whilst Miraculously manoeuvring this ludicrously long vessel through impossibly tight turns and waterways. OK, we were a ‘tad’ impressed and YES, there was a huge temptation to start belting out, “…just one Cornetto…” I resisted this temptation, but only just.
Back in the maze and with a little more retail therapy complete it was time to head back to Punta Sabbioni and the Lido in order to start cooking dinner. Caroline had another surprise planned. We were eating out and we were eating in Venice! Lisa and I were still in shock whilst Caroline selected one of the most lavish and respected restaurants to be found. Feeling a little under dressed we were quickly seated with more, “Sirs and Madams” than should strictly be allowed. It was great!
The food and wine didn’t disappoint as we savoured every mouthful. Miles and Max (10 & 13 respectively) happily tucked into the finest steak on offer; whist Caroline, Lisa and I enjoyed blissfully prepared and cooked seafood. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. Caroline, after all this time, your generosity is still wonderfully surprising and very, very much appreciated…thank you!!!